Thoughts on Crash and Viper…..

When writing The Cat’s Eye Chronicles, I find myself intrigued by the same question: what’s in a name?

Names define us. We build our identities around them. I remember being in sixth grade, starting at a new school. My family always called me Tess or Tessie because I was young, but once I hit the grand age of 11 years old, I no longer wanted to be called “Tessie.” No, I wanted to be Theresa. It was a more serious, adult-sounding name and I guess I was ready to start growing up…a bit.

It makes me wonder–if we change a name, can we change a person?

We see this sometimes in titles. When a boyfriend becomes a husband, or a girlfriend becomes a wife, or man and woman become father and mother, our roles change, our identities change, our responsibilities change. There is power in a name. Why? Because titles and names carry meanings; they define who we are, what stage of life we have entered, what our connection might be to another person.

The Sixth Race in The Cat’s Eye Chronicles has become quite an interesting study for me. By default, their race is called the Unnamed, and they are raised communally, without individual identity. And yet within the large pool of Unnamed, there is a much smaller pool of the Named, and an even smaller pool of the Grandmasters. In some cases, an assassin’s Name can change twice or three-times over the course of his or her life. Which begs the question–how much of a name can hold one’s identity? What if we were all born without names? How would that effect our sense of individuality? What would we do to have a name? How much would we covet it?

In Crash’s story, the various stages of his names run parallel to the stages of his life. In the Hive, he was simply savant, an unnamed child. Once becoming the Viper, he takes on the role of Viper, killing with deadly, ruthless efficiency. When he leaves the Hive, in many ways, he leaves behind his Name and his identity. He strips himself of everything he has ever known, so that one day, he might become something new.

When Viper is finally nicknamed Crash, he enters a new stage in his life. One of friendship and purpose. For the first time, he carries a name without prestige, without some inherent, deeper meaning. The name “Crash” is a special link he shares with Sora. She is one of the first to call him that, and the first to truly see him as a man and not just a trained killer of the Sixth Race. She may know him as Crash, but she knows nothing of the Viper, and this is where Crash becomes conflicted. He doesn’t see the person she sees. He hasn’t quite defined his new identity yet. He hasn’t come to terms with his new name.

As I write his scenes, I often wonder–who is Crash, and who is Viper? Because they are really two different people. When I choose to use the name Viper in the text, I do so with purpose. I am trying to communicate something to the reader. We are no longer contending with the Crash we know. No, we are now looking at the darkness beneath his skin. The place where he comes from. The killer, the warrior, the lethal assassin. Viper is cold and efficient. He works without emotion. He is purpose-driven, highly analytical and cut-throat. In Viper’s world, there is no sentiment, and the demon he carries inside is not his enemy–but his ally.

Crash, in comparison, is still in embryonic form. What are his values? What does he live for? How does he define the world? He doesn’t know yet. And this is where his conflict arises. He wants to be what Sora is, but she cannot be the backbone of his identity. No, he must find that for himself, and he is still searching.

In Ferran’s Map, Crash is going to come into direct contact with his past. He will face his history. As we navigate these waters, I think eventually, the Viper is going to have to die. Not a literal death. But a death of self. Crash cannot know who he is until Viper steps out of the way.

This, my friends, is going to be an interesting study indeed….

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Comments (7)

  1. I’ve often wondered what a name means for the person that is named. It really makes you wonder when you’re naming your kids. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to name my son but he was ultimately named after his Godfather, Bryan. I looked up the meaning of the name and was not really surprised to find that it means “strong one.” Never have I defined my child with anything other than he’s strong headed lol At times when I realized this, I wonder what he would have been like if I had named him something else.
    On the idea of being born without a name, no matter how alike we may seem, not having a name doesn’t keep you from being an individual. The girl known as “bug” is the best example of that. She was herself and an individual in the hive and earned the nickname Viper as savant gave her. Her love for bugs made her unique. She was an individual. But had she been born with a name, she may have been different. It’s a lot to think about in terms of how powerful a name can be.

    I’m completely looking forward to Ferran’s Map and I’m so excited to read it!

  2. Maddy

    That, was an amazing way to describe what I have been thinking!

  3. Melinda

    Wonderfully said! This is something that I’ve been pondering (and discussing with friends) for a while. I saw the beginnings of Crash/Viper’s identity shift and was wondering how he would come to grips with it. I do love the fact that while Sora doesn’t truly “know” Viper, she does see Crash switch occasionally to his other self, if you will. I am very very excited to see how his character evolves and how he wrestles to escape part of him that is somewhat unescapable.

    I love how you’ve created such a dynamic and dimensional character! So well thought out and keeps me enrapt in his growth as a person. Love it!

    Thank you for keeping us involved and letting us into your creative reasoning. ^_^

  4. It’s occurred to me before that Crash must have been in some tiny, seedling form before he ever met Sora. He told her he left the Hive because he wanted a different life, but the one he had was exactly what Viper thrives on. Without Sora, I don’t think Crash would have had a fighting chance, but I do think he was there.

  5. sierrq

    To me Viper is really just meaning he is the best at being an assassin. Viper is basically a dull lifeless brick that is about as shallow as a grave. When Dorion gave Viper the name Crash it started building up his personality from a boring brick to diode. He starts gaining personality as the book goes on he is not a brick anymore. He has tasted the quivering trembling fear and felt the blood boiling anger and that adds depth to his character. My point is your name only adds so much personality the rest of your personality is for you to decide what to make of it.

  6. Katie

    Wow- how insightful! I’ll admit I hadn’t given it much thought – but I feel much closer to understanding Crash/Viper now. I’ll admit, I have a slight crush myself, so little miss Sora isn’t alone. LOL! Can’t wait for Ferran’s Map! :)

    • Dylan

      I can’t wait for Caprion’s Wings to be officially released. Crash aka Viper is awesome. The love between him and Sora gives the book a perfect touch.

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